Resilience and resistance: tools of subjugation both?

On Sunday, I described my initiating interest in and admiration of Brad Evans’ work.  I was taken to a conference at Liverpool University recently, where he was one of the keynote speakers.  The other day I then had the opportunity to read a blogpost of his.  My reactions can be found here.

He kindly read the post this morning, and responded.  He picked me up precisely on the two terms I myself only stumbled across a short time ago: resilience and resistance.

Actually, resilience I had come across last year or the year before – as a tool and strategy (I think Evans would argue ideology) for surviving I mean, not as a word – and even then found myself uneasy about its underlying assumptions that adapting to a tough world was about as ambitious as we could now realistically get.

Through my poetry since then I have moved to believing that there is more to life than survival; indeed, that there is far more we deserve than to stick with the simple mode of live.  Thriving, if we are honest and humane, is what everyone in their darkest, quietest, most intimate moments will yearn and – too often – bitterly hanker after.

So I had occasion this morning to reassess my casual throwing-about of the two terms in question.  Brad suggested I might read his co-authored book “Resilient Life”, a book a cool person I know had I think already suggested I should get my hands on.

This I have done.  I have already read the Preface and part of the first chapter, and am delighted by the recognition of the importance of both the academic and the poetic in resisting society’s often deliberately unquestioned assumptions.  Indeed, people who express themselves through the rupture of culture are surely doing everything they can, in order to avoid being inscribed by such assumptions – even if simply as a counterpoint and reaction.

For I am reminded here of the dilemma all atheists must face: if God as a concept didn’t exist, they would not have to locate themselves in opposition.  The fact that God does exist as a concept means their atheism only exists in response to this pre-existing something; never with an own freedom of original thought, act, or point of view.

And so those of us who have allowed resilience to hold sway – the “making the best of a bad job” approach to survival; never venturing towards thrival – have allowed ourselves similarly to be inscribed by circumstance and environment.  Refusing, in fact, to be even mildly ambitious.  Refusing to carve out our own spaces and times.  Always accepting the need to respond to; never moving forward to a deliberate ignoring-of.

My initial readings of Evans and Reid this morning, and some of the things I gently picked up from his kind responses today to my post on Facebook from the other day, do however lead me to realise that even the journey from resilience to resistance allows one to be defined by the environment – almost certainly aggressive and designed; almost inevitably by neoliberal dynamics, and perhaps also its adepts – in much the same way as I have already alluded to in relation to the ancient problematic of atheism.

“Resistance to what?” one should say.  For resistance can only exist en contra; it can never exist on its lonesome.


Resilience is clearly an example of giving up.  But resistance, too, is at least giving in.

We need something else.

I still don’t, as yet, know what; but something else we do need.

I posted this on Facebook this morning, and quote a rather lengthy section from Evans and Reid’s book.  I would like to repost this FB post here (slightly edited and adapted for the purpose).  If the quote I have chosen is excessively lengthy for either or both of the authors in question, please do contact me via the contact details on this website, and I will be happy to remove any items which offend.

I blogged yesterday on the subject of networks of People, Technology, Messages and Ideologies – something I called PTMIs. Ideas never come out of the blue. This is one.

Not only because of my auto-ethnographic tussling since 2003, and my month-long imprisonment, which used mental health legislation instead of the CJ system that should have been used – obviously lots of productive thoughts have come out of that sequence of experiences. But also the below article I read in 2015, the implications of which over the years have only proceeded to expand in my peculiar mind:

Couple the above strategies, tools and intentions with something I have just stumbled across in Brad Evans / Julian Reid’s fab book “Resilient Life”, on the emergence of such PTMIs as that which Uber clearly manifests, and you may appreciate why I feel far less mad today than ever I did in my life.

Below, the passage I stumbled across from the book in question (the bold is mine today).

“[…] Some time between 2008 and 2010, a profound historical moment occurred when more of us began living in urban locations, i.e. rapidly changing environments as opposed to rural environments. This represents a challenging shift in migratory flows that is projected to rise to 70 per cent by 2050. In 1800, only 3 per cent of the world’s population lived in city spaces. That figure now tops 3 billion city dwellers. More than having a profound impact upon dominant modes of production, as the consumerist logic of markets triumphs over localized self-sufficiencies, it radically alters the dominant matrix for political rule as neat demarcations that once held over sovereign dominions give way to forms of networked power that are globally distributed and complex in design. […]”

So do take the time – if time you have – to compare and contrast the argument of the book’s excerpt with the deeper implications of the Guardian article on Uber’s desire to sidestep local democracies.  I sincerely think it’s worth a cogitation or two today, alongside your favourite sunshiny drink.  Although not too much sunshine will necessarily emerge, plenty of much-needed light will for sure.

As Cory Doctorow said the other day, the future ain’t predictable but it sure is contestable.  Equally, then, never inevitable.

Evans and Reid breathe the same combative spirit, though from clearly different traditions.  In the meantime, then, it is our responsibility, duty and pleasure to imbibe and share this spirit as far as we might.

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